Last week, Hiatus Kaiyote returned to the states to bless their thriving fan base with some much desired tour dates. To commemorate this, Flying Buddah has released Live In Revolt, an EP that includes live versions of "Rainbow Rhodes/Nakamarra" and "Sphynx Gate/The World it Softly Lulls". The band also made history as they performed for the premiere of the Arsenio Hall show, as well as a live performance for KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic" radio show. The band continued their U.S. tour tonight in Brooklyn, NY. Tour dates continue as follows:
Wed. Nov. 6 – Brighton Music Hall – Boston, MA
Fri. Nov. 8 – U Street Music Hall – Washington, DC
Sat. Nov. 9 – North Star Bar – Philadelphia, PA
Coming off a rewarding tour campaigning their debut album, Tawk Tomahawk, where they opened for the illustrious Erykah Badu. I was able to speak with the band at their stop in Columbia, MD.
The thing about going into interviews with musicians who are still establishing themselves is that you’re never quite sure what you’re going into. Assuming that a musician or bands’ personality in an interview will be a reflection of their music is almost as bad as judging a book by it’s cover. Who is to say their coffee wasn't shitty that morning, or that the 7 hour ride cramped on a poor excuse for a bed didn't leave them agitated? Why should they respond unpretentiously to same questions that a different guy in the last city asked them – publicity? I think not. More or less, it’s these kind of uncertainties that plague the thoughts of an interviewer moments before his or her few minutes with the interviewee/s. The reality is they’re human just like the rest of us. But, in the case of a band like Hiatus Kaiyote, whom in superhuman-like fashion have already turned the ears of legends and iconoclasts alike in such a short amount of time, certainly there would be some sliver of ostentation…right?
And so – I waited; I waited through an amazing opening set that drove an encore out of a crowd of maybe 100 people. I waited to be led to the entrance of the backstage area by a bunch of douche-bags pretending to be security asking me repeatedly who I was, although my press pass had my name as big as day in all caps and HK’s manager had specifically requested for them to escort me back. And finally – I waited some more, as some tween guarded the backstage entrance harder than Gandalf guarded that bridge from the Balrog, grilling me as if I was Al-Qaeda while her boss came back to confirm the whole situation. You would think you were at Fort Knox. In the end, the band had moves to make and I had about 15 minutes to talk with them, and against my better judgement, I decided to throw out a very structured list of career oriented questions in favor of just shooting the shit. Here’s how it went:
Earmilk: Y’all gonna stay for Erykah’s show?
Paul Bender: Yeah, we gotta leave after that, but we have to drive a few hours to the next point.
EM: Yeah – Detroit right?
PB: Yeah, Detroit and then another big drive tomorrow.
EM: Nice…so since ya’ll have been stateside, what has been the most enjoyable city to play in thus far?
PB: Uhhhhmmm? I really liked the L.A. show
Nai Palm: L.A. was cool
Perrin Moss: That show was great
NP: Was that when you got your new keyboard?
Simon Mavin: Uh huh
NP: Simon had just got a new keyboard.
EM: What kind of keyboard was it?
NP: Kroonnnosss, [laughs] I like the sound from it actually
PB: Yeah, me too
SM: Oh yeah, its so much better. I sit down every night before practicing and just look at it like…[laughs]
EM: You can’t even play it, you’re just in awe [laughs]
SM: Yeah, it’s fucked up.
EM: Nai this question is more for you. Where do you get your fashion sense from? Because as I was looking at you play, I felt like I was watching Anime…at the same damn time.
NP: [laughs] Yeah!
EM: You know? Does that just come naturally, or?
NP: [points to headpiece] It just grew out of my head.
SM: It’s seriously been growing for about six months [laughs]
EM: [laughs] Must’ve been an interesting process.
NP: Have you heard of Princess Mononoke?
NP: It’s the girl from Princess Mononoke. Basically I’m just a cultural nerd, and I love referencing different things.
It was evident. Nai began to explain her attire in more detail to me. Donning a bevy of trinkets and small treasures that were given to her by fans and new friends she had met along the way, she resembled a princess from some sci-fi fairy tale. One in particular was this crystal that was carved to the shape of a bullet and had been turned into a necklace. But beyond Nai’s space-age royal garb was the fact that she remembered the names of all those bearing gifts; Ashley Pratcha, Mazda Favela – the list went on. If in some parallel universe Nai was royalty, she would probably be the good kind.
EM : That’s awesome
NP: I know – I’m just really blessed that I attract creative people in my sphere. I mean the thing about music and art is that they cross over really effortlessly, so it’s natural that it should become like greater beast of collaboration. Luckily for me, I've been really blessed with the designers that I've run into. They get to dress me up!
EM: So before you guys signed with So…well, Flying Buddah really, did you travel a lot, pretty much playing as much as y’all could? Or was it mostly Australia?
PM: It was mostly just Australia. We’ve done one tour before in the states, and this was our first time we went to Europe as well. We did a month in Europe and we’re like halfway through the American [tour] now. So this is our second time as a band coming out.
SM: But, we definitely spent a lot of time moonlighting, honing our sound. we did a bunch of residencies at a couple of clubs. There was one that went for… I don't know how many months it was.
NP: Like 8 months?
SM: Yeah…it was a long time. Like every Tuesday or Wednesday playing the same club and we built a big fan base from that residency actually, so it was cool.
EM: Yeah, [because] it seems like…you all did just drop Tawk Tomahawk last year?
EM: And like, I knew as soon as I heard it…and I don't like to toot my own horn.
EM: [Laughs] But I was just like man…they have it. You know what I’m saying?
NP: Well, we've only been together for like two and a half years, so it’s not really like we've had a whole lot of time to…play Brazil and fucking Japan and shit so.
PB: I mean the band kind of started when we dropped Tawk Tomahawk. In a way, I guess we started to take it a little seriously more once we dropped that album.
PM: We had a response from that record already.
PB: Yeah, before that it was just playing the venue. All of a sudden there's a manager who got the booking agent and then there's a band and so the cycle goes [laughs]
EM: So, I mean, only two and half years? How did y'all come to be? Were y’all just always playing together or…
NP: It just kind of came together…It’s weird. I’d been writing for a while. Since I was fifteen…and everyone was like, you should get a band together. But I never really…I wasn't ready for it, ya know? Especially with the nature of my songwriting. I found it really hard to find musicians that really fit. [because] I just didn't want it to be like…random session dudes. Like how can I find people that are going to put bring their own creativity and emotion as much as me so that I can get involved to a bigger thing? And then I met Bender at one of my shows. [Actually] I met Bender and Perrin separately. They both produced, and had heard me sing and were like we should do something. And I was like yeah and it totally worked out. It’s really weird, like a year later or something, I decided I was ready. And just through the Melbourne music scene, I ran into Bender and he was like, lets put a band together and I was like, yeah…OK, I’m ready now. And as soon as that decision was made, things just came together and we had our first rehearsal and it was just like [makes skyrocket sound].
EM: Yeah, that energy came back. The universe gave that energy back and made it something.
PB: Yeah [laughs]. It’s crazy how it works.
NP: Yeah and [Bender and Simon] were living together.
PB: Yeah he was away on tour.
SM: Yeah I was playing with another band. We had been together like 8 months or something. It was really in a real musical house. It was like six dudes living there, but It was really about 15 dudes there any day playing music or listening to music or hanging out…
EM: Talking about music [laughs]
SM: Yeah [laughs]. We’d come home at 3 in the morning from a gig, and there would be people jamming in the studio. It was just constant slow time.
EM: Word, It sounds like the life
EM: Aight, so if you could collaborate with any artist, Dead or Alive, who would it be? Right now!
PB: Hrrrrmmmmmmmm. I’d probably have to do something with Frank Zappa.
EM: Yeah, that would be tight.
PM: Like, Dorothy Ashby. Me and [Nai] were actually talking about this earlier.
EM: Yeah, extraordinary harpist
NP: What was the woman’s name?
PM: Daphne Oram. But there was another as well…
PB: Right, Delia Derbyshire
NP: There it is. And, I’d probably have to say [Claude] Debussy. I could [freestyle], arrange and impose a section and if we could work on it from there, that would be pretty amazing.
PB: Yeah, I could see that happening. Considering your arrangements, that would be pretty good.
NP: You know what I mean?
EM: So y’all have been playing jazz and various kinds of music all of your life?
PB: Hmm? Well, Me and Simon definitely have done a lot of the Jazz scene. We've both studied. Simon studied in Melbourne and I studied in Miami. I went to the University of Miami for four years. So we were both heavily into the jazz scene. And, Perrin was doing hip-hop production during that time.
PM: I've been doing that longer than I've been drumming. I've only been drumming for four years.
NP: Well, when we first got together, you had only been drumming for two and a half, three years or something?
PB: This is Perrin’s first band with drums.
EM: Oh OK? [laughs] What? Because, when I first heard you, I was thinking these kids have probably been through the most prestigious music schools. You know?
PM: I mean I got taught by just production. Looking at the grid and seeing how everything sits.
NP: Yeah and I spent hours just listening to Stevie Wonder songs and wanting to be able to play it. So I just like…slowly worked it out on guitar by finding a note and harmonizing with it. It takes fucking forever, but that's how I taught myself.
EM: Yeah, Songs in the Key Of Life, is one of the greatest albums, in my opinion, of all time…but y’all already know what’s up.
EM: Name some must haves on the road.
PB: Power… [Laughs]
Bender was laughing, but he was dead serious. Power was the single most important thing to have on the road, a sentiment shared by both Simon and Perrin expressed in their reply with “yup” and “pretty much”. Nai on the other hand required the more spiritual necessities. From the beginning of our chat and throughout, she would keep lighting this piney scented banana shaped herb and slightly waving it in the air. It had unconsciously put me in a euphoric and mellowed state again. I say “again” because a joint that my photographer and I smoked that morning, a high that I was completely cognizant of, had been blown by this point. It wasn't until Nai explained that it was Sage that I realized everything had an…added chill. But then again, mellow is kind of the idea with Hiatus Kaiyote.
Nai explained that customs doesn't allow her to bring Paulo Santo and Sage with her on tour, but because there is always someone that knows she’s on that tip after seeing her, they always seem to find each other. Of course, the rest of the band didn't seem to mind. According to Bender, “any smell is better than the combined smell of 4 people being trapped on a van for 30 hours.”
EM: So what are some artist to watch in your opinion?
PB: Kirkus. Check out Kirkus… Ainslie Wills
NP: Ngaiire. She’s like…island babe kind of production
PM: Silent Jay
EM: Yeah. I recently heard some of his stuff
NP: He’s also our backup singer
EM: Oh word!?
NP: Yeah, he does backup vocals for me
EM: Oh ok. So really as far as your next project and as far as what y'all are going to be doing later on, there are so many avenues that you can explore and experiment with just your music circle.
NP: That’s kind of the amazing thing, you know? It’s kind rare that a band this young gets to be recognized to the level that we have been. The Australian music scene is really rare and unique, but there’s not really an industry to support it. So it’s been an incredible journey [and] it’s become an avenue for us to help share the amazing music scene that we come from where as its not being supported in the industry.
PM: and also Demian as well…
PB: and also Clever Austin, which is this guy [points to Perrin]
NP: He makes fucking stunning beats.
EM: Ohhhh shit.
NP: He just dropped a mixtape and you can get it online. He doesn’t really listen to any other music. So, you know how you think you’re heavily listening to something and it influences your sound? He doesn’t listen to music, he just locks himself away and makes beats.
PM: I do listen to music – just not anything that distracts me from what I like want to do, I guess, as much. I went through a stage where I listened to so much music and eventually you get stuck with inspiration listening to an album or whatever and usually its not from America or any Western country. It’s usually from West Africa or India or something like that.
EM: Hmm. Who was it that I was listening to the other day….Makeba?
NP: Oh, Miriam? Miriam Makeba from South Africa?
EM: There it is. I knew she was an African artist, but she was covering this Afro-Brazilian tune, and before I saw the album cover, I wouldn't have known it was her. Amazing singer.
NP: Yeah, she’s from Johannesburg. A really powerful woman, she was raised during the Apartheid and was one of the first South African women to tour internationally and be a recognized artist. You know? She played a massive role in breaking the Apartheid.
EM: OK. So it’s safe to say, all of you are crate diggers? You all go hunting for records at least once or twice a week?
PB: Not anymore
NP: Well, the internet you know? Its changed the game as far as our influences because everything is accessible.
PB: Yeah. I definitely feel like it’s more of an internet thing. It’s so instant; someone could be like “Hey I think you might like this” and then they send you something and you’re like what the fuck?
PM: It overwhelms me. It overwhelms me so much. I prefer going through records and really it doesn't even matter what it says. You know? That sounds good, put it in the bag. I listen to records, but not much [internet] surfing or things like that.
NP: I got this record in London, that I haven’t been able to listen to yet. They wouldn't let you listen to it in the store, but it’s like this 1960’s compilation of Moroccan music and the cover just looked fucking dope. So I've got no idea what it sounds like, but I just got it anyway. So that will be cool to check that out.
PB: Whenever I burn music, there are so many albums or artist that I already love, but I already know I'm gonna love it so I don’t get it because it’s almost like redundancy. Like, I've heard this, I actually physically own it, but honestly I have more fun saying i have no idea what this is, the cover looks cool. And sometimes, they’re awesome and then sometimes it’s like fuck what are they?
PB: Because sometimes its some other shit that you’d just never hear
EM: You’re delightfully surprised
EM: So if I didn't know you, how would you describe your music?
NP: My favorite one is multidimensional poly rhythmic gangster shit. [Laughs]
PB: Like…galactic love attack, maybe? I don't know.
NP: and Wonder-core.
SM: Wonder-core is pretty good [because] it’s snappy
EM: Yeah, because people are trying to put the future soul thing on it…
PM: Right, its just the closest resemblance…
EM: Yeah, it’s like what’s that all about? It’s like chill wave, you know what I’m saying? Y’all know what I’m talking about…
NP: But sometimes genre is necessary, [because] it’s like yes, this is exactly what I do, and this is all I'm going to do and that's my vibe. So people can be like great, that’s what that is. But a lot of the time it’s not and they still try to use that method of categorization.
PB: You know I think something we’re all about is whatever thing we’re referencing, we are trying to combine it with other stuff and trying to avoid, like…the typical thing. So anything we do, we’re trying to avoid categorization by bringing more elements into it. But yeah, there are times when genre is valid; if you play like…techno or something, it’s part of a bigger thing. Its part of a whole community that's about this one thing. There are genres that hang on to tradition, but for us it’s more about trying to push it to a slightly different place than you might expect. It’s hard to kind of come up with a genre classification to identify the ridiculous thing that we've come up with.
And that was pretty much all I had for them. We stood up, exchanged daps, pounds and contacts, took a few photos and they were back to doing whatever it was that they had to do. Imagine running into a friend that you haven’t seen in a half-decade, but you two pick up right where you left off. It’s kind of like that with Hiatus Kaiyote; you know them, but you just haven’t seen them in a while. P Before closing, I thanked the band for their time and being so open with me, to which Bender responded “well, now since you’re leaving we can go back to being assholes to each other.” My kind of people.